Los Angeles is vulnerable to 13 of the 16 federally-identified natural and manmade disasters, especially wildfires, floods, earthquakes and mudslides. Between 1950 and 2010, Los Angeles had 196 earthquakes over a magnitude of 3.5, 175 floods and 50 wildfires.
The city’s dry weather and unpredictable winds are invitations to wildfires like the 1993 fire that started in Topanga Canyon and quickly swept through six canyons on its way to the coastal community of Malibu where it raged for three days, destroying 739 homes and doing about $500 million in damage. Three residents who did not obey the evacuation order were killed. More recently, the November 2008 Sayre fire burned 11,262 acres and destroyed 489 homes and 10 commercial buildings.
FEMA has named California as a “very high risk” for earthquakes. Although most of the 10,000 earthquakes are too small to be felt, many are not. The 1994, magnitude 6.7 Northridge Earthquake collapsed apartment buildings and freeway overpasses, killing over 60 people, injuring 8,700 and causing $20 million in property damage.
Manmade disasters are another threat. Riots after the 1992 verdict in the Rodney King beating case left 34 people dead, 2,000 injured and millions of dollars in damages.
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Qualifications for Becoming an Emergency Management Specialist in Los Angeles
- A bachelor’s degree in emergency management OR a bachelor’s degree in another field and emergency management certification
- Two or three years experience in emergency management or services
- Excellent communication skills
The L.A. EMD student internship program is an excellent way to gain experience. Applications for the 10-week internship are accepted for fall, winter and summer terms. Call L.A. EMD at 213/484-4800 to inquire about openings for paid employment or the internship program.
The U.S, Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the annual mean salary for emergency management managers in Los Angeles as $103-630 to $109,150.
The Response to Emergencies/Disasters in Los Angeles
In 2000, the City of Los Angeles Emergency Management Department (EMD) was created to protect the public and ensure readiness to respond to and recover from natural and manmade emergencies/disasters. The EMD has a huge job to do and depends on highly qualified professionals to get it done. Its functions include:
- Coordinates planning, training, response and recovery efforts when a disaster or act of terrorism requires the involvement of multiple-agencies.
- Works in cooperation with federal/state agencies and the private sector
- Operates a state-of-the-arts Emergency Operations Center that is the hub of activity during a major disaster
- Conducts community outreach and disaster preparedness activities.
Port of Los Angeles Emergency Management
The Port of Los Angeles covers 7,500 acres of land/water along 43 miles of waterfront. It is the busiest container port in the U.S. and the West Coast’s largest cruise ship terminal, handling over one million passengers annually. Port emergency management works with the L.A. EMD to provide port security. Functions include:
- Regulating the movement of vessels
- Preparing and implementing an evacuation of vessels and facilities if needed
- Procuring/maintaining emergency supplies and equipment
- Training the port’s 16,000+ employees in emergency preparedness
- Adhering to the National Incident Management System
Emergency Management Careers with the City of Los Angeles
The Los Angeles Emergency Management Division (EMD) hires specialists to work in each of its four divisions:
- Administrative Services Division – handles all administrative functions
- Communications Division—gathers and disseminates information
- Community Division—works with community organizations/neighborhood groups
- Operations Division—its three units are the emergency operations center unit; the planning unit and the training/exercises unit